Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Race Report: 2018 Love Run Half Marathon, Philadelphia

My wife is a member of Half Fanatics, a ridiculous group that, along with its sister organization Marathon Maniacs, encourages people to run long races all the damn time and provides a network of support for members at those races.

I wanted to join it, too.

The "easiest" ways to join the lowest level of Half Fanatics is to run two half-marathons in 16 days or three half marathons in 90 days.  They have to be official races, not me running around Manchester by myself, so logistically this can be a little challenging when you live in the middle of nowhere.  My wife had previously qualified a few years ago (I'm too lazy to look it up) by running Shamrock and then Love Run in Philadelphia a week later.  The two races don't always line up like this, since the Love Run is sometimes moved to avoid Easter, but this year they did.  Well, ok.  Sign me up.

The perfectly cromulent race expo was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  You get a decent amount of stuff for this race:  A tech shirt, a commemorative mug...and well, I guess that's it. But what more do you expect? But it was nice expo, with a decent selection of vendors and representation of other races, and the opportunity to win free prizes from CGI Racing, the event's organizer.  My wife won last year's mug, and I won a pair of Love Run gloves.  Score.

The highlight of the expo for me was saying hi to Bart Yasso, "the Mayor of Running", who was representing the Philadelphia Marathon/Half Marathon/Rothman 8k, Philly's big fall running event.  I've briefly met Bart, the former Chief Running Officer of Runner's World, before and he's a nice guy with lots of great running stories, but I'm an awkward introvert who didn't really know what to say.  This time, Bart saw immediately that I'd run Shamrock the week before (since I was wearing all my stuff to prove I was savvy half marathon veteran), as he also had, and we had a nice conversation for a few minutes about that while he was supposed to be signing people up for Philly, before he graciously posed for a picture with me.  Thanks, Bart!

After the expo, my wife and I went to dinner at Pizzeria Vetri, a slightly fancy pizza place near Rittenhouse Square (Does anyone else watch "Timeless" and now think of "Rittenhouse" as evil?).  We were tired, so we stopped for one drink at the hotel bar and went back to the room to lay our stuff out.

As I mentioned in my previous post, when I registered for this in the fall, I'd had the foresight to put "Dallas Sucks" on my bib, perfect since I was running in my Eagles shirt and the Eagles had actually won the Superbowl for once.  This was already the best race ever...until the race part started.

Race Day
Let's just get this out of the way.  It was fucking cold.  It was overcast and windy and even when our corral got underway at about 8:00 a.m. (half an hour after gun time), I never warmed up.  

The course itself is similar to the Philly Half, except it doesn't go as far east into Old City but then makes up for it by going farther west into Fairmount Park.  Like the Philly Half, which to be fair I haven't run since 2010, I enjoyed the Center City part of the race more than the park part of the race, even though my Garmin was frustratingly useless among the tall buildings.  What makes this race frustrating once you get out into the park is, like the Rocky Run 10K we ran a few years ago, it's almost all an out and back along MLK except for a detour around Strawberry Mansion.  It's not that Fairmount Park, along the banks of Schuykill, isn't pretty.  It's just that for the whole "out" you're watching everyone going faster cruise to the finish.  Still, the course as a whole is flat and fast, and I think if your goal is to push for a 13.1 PR, this is probably a good option.  We were not gunning for a PR, bringing me to my main criticism of the race.

The race  website states that is has a 3.5 hour time limit.  Futher down, at the bottom of the page, it clarifies that this 3.5 hour time limit starts from gun time -- the start of the race for the fastest participants.  This means that the people in the last corral, who are placed there because we entered the longest projected finishing times, get considerably less time.  

The website claims: "We have factored in the time it will take for the last corrals to cross the start line. Please plan your training accordingly."


Total Bullshit.

We got swept off the course before mile ten, told by the police to move to the sidewalk.  Garbage.  We were able to cross a timing mat at mile 10, where we recorded a chip time of 2:38:49. At this point, our projected finishing time was 3:28.  We did end up falling a little bit short of 3:30, so if we had gotten swept much closer to the finish line, this would have been understandable, but it is abundantly clear that the race organizers did not "factor in the time it will take for the last corrals to cross the start line".  

To their credit, the finish line was still open when we crossed, and there were still plenty of medals, food, and even a beer tent with Yards Brawler(we've seen no sign of a beer tent on my wife's two previous Love Runs).  It was overall a good, enjoyable event from the expo to the finishing party, but an overly aggressive sweeper puts a huge damper on the race.  If this is standard practice for race managers, it's a shitty one.  I know it makes sense to put the fast people first so they have a clear course.  I myself complain every year that Kelly Shamrock 5K doesn't have a more organized corral or pace sign system.  But it makes just much sense to realize that it's the people in the last corral that need the full time limit much more.  

Would I run it again?  Not sure.   The Love Run has a lot of positives: Good expo, decent swag, good merchandise selection, good course (despite my personal gripe about the out and back), finisher party with free beer, good location with lots of things to do and good places to eat.

But poor race management potentially outweighs all of that.

 (Cheesesteak Eggrolls at the Continental)

Brian's Terrible Race Photos, 2018 Edition: The Love Run

When I registered for this race last fall, I got to pick out a custom name/nickname/saying/whatever for my race bib.  Rather than just put "Brian" like a normal person, I put "Dallas Sucks".

The race was in Philly, after all, and I'm a huge Eagles fan. By happy coincidence the Eagles won their first Superbowl (did you hear?) in the intervening months.

I had totally forgotten that I did this, and when I picked up my packet in the post-superbowl 52 world, I couldn't stop laughing.  I wanted to make sure that my hilarious bib got in race photos, so as I approached the photographer, I unzipped my jacket like a flasher...and well, I guess the wind got a hold of me and resulting parachute effect makes me look even rounder than I am.

I also hate when I got caught flat-footed in the picture.  Well, in this one it looks like I'm just standing in the middle of road.  Maybe I was.  Maybe I was.

Reaching the Finish LIne is always cool, and my wife and I were very happy and relieved.  I'm glad this awkward high-five was captured on film.  She was on my left.  Why didn't I just use my left hand?  I'm left handed, goddammit.

There were good pictures, too.  But who cares about those?

Race report on the Love Run coming later this week.  Maybe.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Race Reports: 2018 TowneBank Shamrock 8k and Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon

We skipped Shamrock two years since I made my first visit for the marathon in 2011:  I didn't want to go down in 2014 since I was slated for surgery and grumpily limping through races, and last year we didn't go down as my wife recovered from complications from a broken ankle.

After so many trips down, Virginia Beach feels like home.  It was great to get back to Doughboys, Il Giardino, and Maple Tree Pancake House.  It was great to see Neptune towering over the boardwalk.  It was nice to get Duck Donunts again.  It was great to find new places, too, like the Military Aircraft Museum, Green Flash, Smartmouth Pilot House, and Home Republic Brewpub.  

But mostly, it's great to run almost completely flat races and with big free beer parties afterwards. 

TowneBank Shamrock 8K

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  This race is a blast.  It's an almost completely flat through downtown and oceanfront Virginia Beach, and I've had some of my best races here.  I hate-ran it in 2012, when I was supposed to be running the marathon again, and PR'd with a 41:10 that I'll be hard-pressed to come within 10 minutes of.  I've never approached that again, but I've had relatively good races there.  In the low 50s in 2013 and 2016, while in 2015 it was the only race that Spring where I wasn't having a relapse of compartment syndrome.  And, from a beer-per-mile standpoint, the 8K is really your best value of the weekend. 

I came in this year with a 57:04, an 11:29-minute mile pace.  I couldn't make up my mind about whether to press hard for a sub-55, or take it easy because I was going to push myself for a 2:30 half marathon the next day, and I really didn't do either.  As a result, I had a time I was slightly disappointed in for the 8K and was also a little gassed for the half the next day.  But, I enjoyed every second of that 57:04, especially since I was clad in the logo of the Superbowl LII Champion Philadelphia Eagles, and that's really what counts.

My only mild criticism -- and J&A Racing knows what they're doing -- is that it just takes FOREVER for the corrals to go off.  It's a 7:45 start time, but our corral (the last, to be fair), didn't go off until 8:30.  

The post-race party was fun, as usual, and we spent the rest of the day at the Military Aircraft Museum, with a quick pre-dinner stop at Green Flash Brewery.  Both great.

Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon

My best half marathon is 1:59:10, back in 2010, when I was young and dreamed of glory.  Since then, I'd ran the Wild Half in 2015 and Shamrock in 2016, never getting back under 3 hours.  I don't particularly care to speed train enough to worry about beating my old PRs, qualifying for Boston (which is nevah going to happen), or any speed metrics.  But, I wanted to see how fast I could finish this just so I could think about whether it was feasible to take another shot at the marathon.  I was a 5-hour marathoner when I was in my mid-30s and right at the middle of the bell curve in about every distance except the marathon.  Compared to my other distances, I was a bad marathoner.  I'm not shy about that.  But, I wanted to test whether a 5:00-5:30 marathon was feasible.  I just don't want to think about being out there for 6+ hours.  

With that in mind, my goal was a 2:30.  I thought that a perfect 12-minute mile pace would bring me in around 2:36, and I've been running pretty consistently at sub-11 minute miles, that I could bank some time and finish in about that.

The short answer is I was a little slower than I hoped, at 2:38, but that I'm also pretty happy with that.  I paced myself well and consistently, and ran the whole race until mile 11, when I needed to mix some in, even though I'd run an 8K the day before and my long runs had only gotten up to 8-miles.  

With that in mind, I've never hurt so much after a half, even when I ran at the edge of death to that 1:59.  I needed considerable help from the railing to get down off the boardwalk onto the beach, and when I tried to sit down in a corner of the party tent with a bowl of Murphy's Irish Stew, my legs cramped up and I had to stand back up.  (The very kind runners near me were concerned, but I was fine once I got some food in me).  After some soup, some chips, 4 Yuenglings (The new Golden Pilsner is ok.  It's like a better version of Bud Light, honestly.) I felt much better.And after a post-race trip to Smartmouth Brewing's Pilot House and Home Republic, I was feeling very good indeed.

For the first time, I officially scored a Dolphin Challenge medal, and J&A Racing did a great job as usual with everything.  It was bittersweet to leave Virginia Beach with our customary Maple Tree breakfast, but as I've already said, we'll happily be back in 2018.

My only complaint is that Town E. Bear was not as heavily involved in the post-race festivities as he was in 2016.  I find Town E. Bear hilarious, especially when I'm in a big tent drinking, and especially when a bear mascot gets up on stage and dances.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Well, That Was Stupid

For the second week in a row, my wife and I ran a half marathon.  This time it was the Love Run in Philadelphia.  The main thing about it was that it was cold.

I don't hurt as bad as I did after Shamrock, but my left leg is currently a mostly useless appendage that I'm kind of just dragging around.  But, I qualified for Half Fanatics, so there's that. (Wife is already a member.)

Race reports for Shamrock and Love Run are coming, if you're into that kind of thing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ok, So We're Doing This

I think it's finally time to take another shot at the marathon. As I was at mile 12 on Sunday, laboring, all I could think was "I'm glad I'm not running the full". But, I said the same thing in 2010, when I ran the half at Philly, and I ran two marathons in 2011. I'm slower than I was then. It'll hurt. It'll be slow. I'll probably complain a lot. But it's time to put 7+ years of failed comeback attempts to rest.

And the 8k is my favorite race ever. I can't skip the 8k. That just wouldn't do. No, not at all.

Monday, March 19, 2018

It's Times Like These You Learn to Love Again

Surprise, sur-f***ing-prise. I actually stuck with running all Summer, Fall, and Winter and trained for, albeit somewhat mediocrely, and finished a half marathon.

I did much better over the last year in getting out to run during the week than I had in years, which is my usual training problem, but I just didn't get in enough long enough long runs to really have been ready. But I finshed the Shamrock Half, and in only a few minutes (but considerably more pain) than I'd hoped to finish.

And I'm doing it again on Sunday, at what looks like a blissfully freezing Love Run Half in Philly. As I met my wife as she finished the Shamrock half, some of my first words were "I don't think I'm going to run Love Run." But, I am a glutton for punishment and I'm going to do it...although with a less aggressive time goal than the 2:30 I'd wanted at flat-as-a-board Shamrock.  I want to finish, but I also don't want to be in this much pain two weeks in a row.

But, at more than any other point in the last seven years of sporadic running, I feel like I'm back. I want to do long runs in the Summer even though I hate it. I want to run a fall half. I want to finally put paid on years of comeback attempts and run a marathon next year, and I feel like I actually can stick with it.

Virginia Beach and J&A Racing did it again. I needed to re-find the joy of running, and I found it again at Shamrock.

(Me and my beautiful participant medals.)

I won't be posting here on a regular basis. I'll do some race reviews including the Shamrock and 8k, bitch about the heat, or brag if there's ever occasion, but I still don't have much to say here anymore.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Slowly Getting Faster?

That's my best 3.1 mile time of the spring and summer by over 20 seconds. Managed to go a little faster each mile, but didn't have a strong kick for the last tenth.

I didn't feel great today at the start. Tired, some pain in my left shin and ankle in the first half mile, but I just wanted to get this one over with.  When the cooler weather comes, I'll be ready.